Since 1925, four generations of Grappones have sold cars and trucks in New Hampshire. But a few years ago, the family decided to rip up the approach that had long been the foundation of its success and try to shed the traditional dealership image that makes some consumers queasy.
In 2013, Grappone Automotive Group eliminated its finance department, ended sales commissions and began advertising haggle-free prices on every vehicle, with no exceptions. The dealerships' salespeople offer customers a set of finance options and are paid an hourly rate, with bonuses for vehicles sold.
It was an enormous risk that has paid off in some ways, though there are challenges that the family is still figuring out.
"We just didn't like the dog-and-pony show," said Bob Grappone, who co-owns the business with his daughter, Amanda Grappone Osmer. "It's a resounding success as far as dealer satisfaction, but it's a struggle to get back to a normal return on investment. I was convinced that this is the future."
The group, which sells five brands from a single location outside Concord, N.H., believes that short-term sacrifice of profit margins is creating a better customer experience and is improving long-term customer retention.